FALMOUTH — Neither candidate in Maine House District 112 is a stranger to politics.
Rep. Mary P. Nelson, D-Falmouth, is the two-term incumbent. Her opponent, Republican John Logan Jones, has never run for elected office before.
But Jones worked for the past year on U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, and was a delegate to this year’s Republican National Convention. The 26-year-old is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he was an airborne cryptologic linguist. He was deployed overseas and honorably discharged in 2009.
Jones said that the ability of constituents to reach him through social media is what makes him a good choice for the District 112 seat.
“I plan to integrate 21st century technology to stay in touch with constituents,” he said. “I think it’s the 21st century, every legislator needs to be accessible on the web. I pledge to do an update for every single vote I cast on Facebook and Twitter, so people can see why I’m voting the way I am, and if they have questions, I can respond in a personal way and in a way that everyone can see.”
Nelson, 69, is a 32-year resident of Falmouth, and has three sons who graduated from town schools. Now retired, she said she spends the majority of her time focused on her work as a legislator, and endeavors to work across the aisle to reach solutions that work for everyone.
“I’ve worked very hard for the last four years to gets thing done and to improve our education system, and I have worked very hard to find the common ground and find solutions which work for Maine,” Nelson said. “I really am not trying to promote any particular political agenda, I think it’s much better to try to work collaboratively with all of your colleagues. It’s incumbent on all legislators to listen carefully and find solutions that work for people.”
Both candidates believe education is the key to keeping businesses in Maine.
Nelson, who serves on the House Education Committee, said that when talking to business owners she has found that many young people are not properly trained to work in jobs that are available in Maine.
“We need to get more kids into post-secondary education, appropriately train them for careers and life after school,” she said. “We need to give them a chance to have the right skills so that they can get jobs. I think that is the best way that you can support business.
She also said that Maine businesses could be better supported by funding for research and development, as well as by lower health-care and energy costs.
Jones agreed that education is crucial, but said there is a need for less business regulation, too.
“People recognize that kids get a great education in Maine,” he said. “But it looks like we’re educating Boston’s workforce because they get a great education here, and then they have to leave the state looking for work.”
Jones said that the Legislature needs to look at why young people are leaving the state and must create more opportunities for businesses to come into Maine.
“I want to make sure that regulations are easy to comply with and the tax burden is competitive,” he said. “Maine is pretty heavily taxed and when people are looking to invest money they are going to look at the costs, both through regulations and taxations. That’s how they are going to make a decision. I want to make sure that Maine becomes competitive nationally, to attract investors (and) to provide opportunity for the young folks who are currently headed down to Boston.”
Nelson and Jones agree that, as a state, Maine has a responsibility to help people in need, but they differ on how to end a culture of dependency on state welfare systems.
Jones said Maine spends too much on welfare, but he is not in favor of “pulling the rug out from under people on welfare.” He wants to look at how a transition can be made to make people less dependent.
“The best safety net is a strong community, it’s not taking tax dollars from one group of people and giving it to another. I don’t think that’s a sustainable solution,” he said. “I think finding local voluntary solutions to take care of people who need the help is better than deferring to the state and writing a blank check to the Department of Health and Human Services.”
He said the Legislature should examine where the systems are being abused and look at how to reform those systems.
Nelson said that while the state spends a lot of money on its welfare systems, the money is justified because as a state we have a low per-capita income and the second oldest population in the country.
“Do we spend too much? We spend a lot because we have people in this state who are poor and we have people in this state who are elderly,” she said. “Children and the elderly are by far the largest receiver of funds and I believe we have an obligation to support them.”
She also said that the state needs to find other ways to help people get back on their feet, rather than leaning on the welfare system. She also said that she feels that the departments running Maine’s welfare system have an obligation to follow and get rid of cases of abuse.
“Every time you have someone who is abusing the system, that means somebody who legitimately needs the system is not getting those services,” she said.
Jones and Nelson both said they support the development of alternative energy in Maine, specifically natural gas. But they disagree on how to fund programs.
Jones said development should be funded by the marketplace, not by state subsidies.
“If the technology is worthwhile to use, then people are going to bring it to market,” he said.
He also said Maine’s existing natural gas pipeline should be better networked.
Nelson said there is a place for some sort of state subsidy, but she would also like to see some of the work absorbed by the state’s universities.
“They are doing a lot of research at the University of Maine in wind and tidal, and I think it is absolutely appropriate to work collaboratively with them,” she said.
Both candidates said they support legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine.
“I believe that the law should apply equally to all citizens of the state of Maine,” Nelson said. “I voted in support of the equal marriage legislation in the 124th legislature and was disappointed when it was overturned. I believe that the government’s role is to issue licenses, and I don not believe you should withhold a marriage license from somebody because they are of the same sex.”
Jones said the government should not arbitrarily decide to do something for one population and not another, and that marriage licensing itself should be ended.
“Whether Question 1 passes or fails, one of the two sides of the argument is going to feel like they are being oppressed,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to get permission from the state to love somebody. By ending marriage licensure, both sides can be happy because (couples) can negotiate the contract between themselves and it would be recognized like any other contract.”